Global Handwashing Day: It saves lives!

15 Oct 2009

Global Handwashing Day: It saves lives!

KABUL - Students across Kabul today celebrated Global Handwashing Day, which highlights the importance of hand-washing with soap and water as one of the most effective and affordable health interventions.

At a function organized at the Istaqlal High School, the Ministers of Health and Education along with the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, emphasized maintaining hygiene and washing hands regularly.

"The education sector can play a vital role in spreading awareness about this life-saving practice. We have a network of seven million students whom we can inform about the importance of washing hands and through them we can pass on this message to the remaining population," said Education Minister Dr Ghulam Farooq Wardak.

“From its experience of working in the developing world, UNICEF believes that improved access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in schools promotes a healthy learning environment…and contributes significantly to increase the enrolment and retention of girls in schools,” added UNICEF deputy-representative for Afghanistan, Gopal Sharma.

Also speaking on issues surrounding hygiene, Health Minister Dr Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi asked the children "to make a promise to practice hand washing regularly which is also mentioned in Islam."

According to UNICEF, each year, diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections are responsible for the deaths of more than 3.5 million children under the age of five. Washing hands with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before handling food, helps reduce diarrhoeal and respiratory infections by around 40 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

Approximately 200 million children participated in last year’s inaugural Global Handwashing Day across five continents.

This year millions more, including, children, parents, celebrities, and government officials in over 80 countries, including Afghanistan, joined in the celebrations.

In Afghanistan the Global Handwashing Day is an initiative by Ministries of Public Health and Education, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, civil society organizations and individuals countrywide.

By Aditya Mehta, UNAMA

Website: Global Handwashing Day